HONDURAS: GCE calls for justice as 4 student leaders are assassinated
Four students – the youngest of whom was just 13 years old – were brutally murdered in Comayaguela, Honduras between 24-25 March 2015. All had participated in protests against the lack of teaching materials and resources in schools, and the proposed lengthening of classroom hours – meaning that children would be expected to leave school at 7pm, a dangerous time of day in the country with the world’s highest murder rate.
On March 24, two boys and one girl were assassinated just after leaving the school grounds in Comayaguela. The following morning, the body of 13 year old Soad Nicolle Ham Bustillo was found wrapped in a sheet, with clear signs that she had been tortured before her death. Soad had been filmed by a news channel during the protests earlier in the month, demanding to know why the president had sent in the police instead of fixing the school infrastructure.
Honduras is one of Latin America’s poorest countries, and is well-known for having the world’s highest murder rate. Comayaguela is the sister city of Tegucigalpa; together they form the capital of Honduras, although Comayaguela houses lower income neighbourhoods and has seen less development than its twin. Over half the population of Honduras lives in poverty, and without the provision of quality education it will remain a struggle for Hondurans to break the cycle. Almost 10% of primary-age children are out of school, but this rises to a steep 23.5% for children of lower-secondary age (UIS).
Student protests have been running over the last few months, with previous demonstrations taking place at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. The reports of brutality with which these were repressed include police beatings, the use of tear gas and even death threats. Further reports from human rights organisations in Honduras have stated that two other students had been gunned down in Comayaguela several weeks before this latest set of horrifying assassinations. The repression and murder of students echoes the forced disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico in September 2014, and could indicate a disturbing trend in the crackdowns of social protest in Latin America.
Any State which allows a child as young as 13 to be targeted, tortured and murdered for voicing a political opinion must be wholly condemned. The Global Campaign for Education stands in solidarity with its partner coalition, Foro Dakar Honduras, the students, teachers and people of Honduras, and calls for justice for the families of the murdered students. The people of Honduras have the right to protest against the proposed damaging reforms, and the children of Honduras have the right to a quality, public education system which does not put their lives at risk.
For more information on the situation in Honduras please see the Telesur report here.
This statement is also available in French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese.